Master Ed Parker, Founder of American Kenpo Karate

Parker was born in Hawaii in 1931 and began training in the martial arts at a young age in judo and later boxing. Sometime in the 1940s, Ed Parker was first introduced to Kenpo by Frank Chow who then introduced Ed Parker to William Chow, a student of James Mitose. William trained Parker while serving in the Coast Guard and attending Brigham Young University. In 1953 he was promoted to the rank of black belt. Parker, seeing that modern times posed new situations that were not addressed in Kenpo, adapted the art to make it more easily applicable to the streets of America and called his style, American Kenpo Karate.

Parker opened the first “Americanized” karate school in the western United States in Provo, Utah in 1954. By 1956, Parker opened a Dojo in Pasadena, California. His first brown belt student was Charles Beeder. There is controversy over whether Beeder received the first black belt awarded by Parker. Beeder’s son has stated for the record that his father’s black belt came after Ed Parker had moved to California. The other black belts in chronological order up to 1962 were: Rich Montgomery, James Ibrao, Mills Crenshaw, authorized by Ed Parker to open a school in Salt Lake City, UT in late 1958 (That school later became the birthplace of the International Kenpo Karate Association; or IKKA.), Tom Garriga, Rick Flores, Al and Jim Tracy of Tracy Kenpo, Chuck Sullivan, John McSweeney, and Dave Hebler. In 1962, John McSweeney opened a school in Ireland, which prompted Parker to give control of the Kenpo Karate Association of America to the Tracy Brothers and form a new organization, the International Kenpo Karate Association.